An storm of controversy is brewing around The Hills.
Some sloppy editing in recent episodes, reported in several newspapers and celebrity news blogs, have raised the question of whether the show is staged.
Then last week, an online exposÃ© by star Lauren Conrad's one-time date, Gavin Beasley, sent millions Hills fans into a tizzy trying to figure it out.
MTV has always 'fessed to doing "pickup shots," staged scenes that address issues of continuity, but not storylines. But in an interview last week, Beasley divulged the high level of manipulation that goes on in The Hills.
The revelations of Gavin Beasley are perhaps the most incriminating to surface s far supporting the (fairly obvious) allegation that at least a good part of The Hills' drama is largely manufactured by MTV and its producers.
Beasley divulged some details regarding his cameo, including how producers asked him to get Conrad's phone number and told him what to ask her.
"They wanted me to ask her about the runway show, how long she had worked that day, when would she get off, stuff like that," Gavin Beasley said.
Thursday, an MTV rep responded that producers "overheard" that Gavin Beasley was "planning to ask Lauren Conrad out on a date."
And while maintaining that the show is not scripted, the spokeswoman did acknowledge the producers sometimes help guide dialogue along for clarity:
"As there are no confessionals or interviews on The Hills to put the questions in context (as there are in shows such like The Real World), producers sometimes ask the cast members to rephrase to help tell the story clearly."
Gavin Beasley had also said that producers set up a barbecue party for the gang, specifically so Brody Jenner and he could meet, thus providing the fodder for an episode that would revolve largely around Jenner growing jealous of Beasley.
MTV denied this, saying the cast organized the party.
Scripted or not, watching L.A.'s most popular layabouts bicker on The Hills has been the definition of guilty pleasure since its launch in early 2006.
You can't write someone like perpetual backstabber Heidi Montag, who made herself extremely fun to hate during the show's second season.
Montag, however, has been sidelined this season by a considerably more bland Lauren Conrad, so can you blame the producers for trying to stir the pot?
If producers are in fact helping some things along, though, why has this season gotten so boring? Sure, with former BFFs Conrad and Montag on the outs, the series has sort of split in to two so-so shows, rather than one great one.
Many believe that the producers also made the mistake of promoting Whitney Port and Audrina Patridge to being Conrad's chief sidekicks. Unfortunately for them, both are more venting boards for Conrad than anything else.
But, it must be said, thank heavens for Audrina Patridge's love interest, Justin Brescia (a.k.a. Justin-Bobby) and his Taoist sayings.
On relationships: "We can either kick rocks and be acquaintances ... or let truth and time tell all." Well put, Justin-Bobby / Justin Brescia. Well put.
Still, some suggestions producers for the future...
- As long as you're manufacturing things, let's not give the girls space. In the first episode of they year, Conrad and Montag got into a screaming match at the club LAX. That and their run-in at Ketchup ruled. More!
- Acknowledge The Hills' popularity on the show. Follow them to the clubs. Watch them address the press. Crash photo shoots of Conrad and Montag. And for heaven's sake, get in on Heidi Montag's and Spencer Pratt's schemes and publicity strategy sessions - you know they have them.